Once considered an integral part of music packaging, album art has all but faded in the digital music age. The iPod has reduced 12 x 12 LP covers to thumbnails, pushing many artists to use large block print across plain backgrounds. How else are people going to know what they’re listening to? Sometimes simplicity is good, but thankfully for the vinyl aficionados of the world there are still artists who value the visual experience of owning an LP. Hit the jump to check out the covers that caught our eye in 2011.
Sam Beam will no doubt get some flack for his new album Kiss Each Other Clean, out tomorrow on Warner Bros. Records. Over-produced, jumbled instrumentation, not folkie enough, are just some of the claims I expect to hear in the coming weeks. Granted, if The Creek Drank The Cradle is your favorite Iron and Wine record, Kiss is likely to be your least favorite. While I won’t go and rank Beam’s records, I will say that I’m a fan of his progression. The jazz, blues and funk sounds that infiltrate the new album, show an artist confident with his craft, willing to take some chances for the sake of the song. Not everything works, but ultimately these “experiments” enrich the tracks on Kiss, particularly Beam’s storytelling, and for me that’s what an Iron and Wine record is all about.
Judge for yourself tomorrow, but in the meantime catch Beam’s acoustic performance (for you traditionalists) of the album’s second single “Tree By The River” above. The clip, shot in a wine cellar no less, is the newest “Take Away Show” featured on the always brilliant La Blogotheque. For a better taste of Iron and Wine’s new direction, download the album-version below.
The wait for a new Iron & Wine album is almost over. Sam Beam and company are set to release Kiss Each Other Clean on January 25 via Warner Bros. Records. The album marks the group’s first release in over three years and also their first since parting ways with independent powerhouse Sub Pop. While always maintaining his trademark hushed vocals and southern storybook lyrics, Beam has surprisingly managed to transform the group’s sound with each new release. We’ll see what direction the new LP takes.
The album’s first single, “Walking Far From Home,” will be released Black Friday, November 26. Until then, catch a short trailer above and a full tracklist (plus new cover art) after the jump.